Microplastics in Our Bodies

Microplastics in Our Bodies?

The world produces about 400 million metric tons of plastic a year, the equivalent of 882 billion pounds, and 80 percent ends up deposited in landfills and other parts of the environment. Two recent but small studies now show that microplastics are likely ending up in our bodies!



New research shows microplastics in 90 percent of the table salt brands sampled worldwide. Of 39 salt brands tested, 36 had microplastics in them, according to a new analysis by researchers in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia. Using prior salt studies, this new effort is the first of its scale to look at the geographical spread of microplastics in table salt and their correlation to where plastic pollution is found in the environment.

The density of microplastics found in salt varied dramatically among different brands, but those from Asian brands were especially high, the study found. The highest quantities of microplastics were found in salt sold in Indonesia. Asia is a hot spot for plastic pollution, and Indonesia—with 34,000 miles (54,720 km) of coastline—ranked in an unrelated 2015 study as suffering the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world.


Human Excrement:

Microplastics have been found in human stool samples from countries in many parts of the world, according to a small pilot study presented at the 26thannual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna.

The study looked at stool samples from eight individuals in eight different countries: Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the U.K. and Austria. Every stool sample tested positive for up to nine different plastic types, with an average of 20 particles of plastic per 10 grams of stool. The individuals in this study ate their "normal diet" but all did eat foods that were packaged in or had contact with plastics. 

The concern is whether microplastics might be entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and ... even reach the liver, as microplastics have been shown to cause intestinal damage and liver stress.

These studies are all quite small and further research is needed to draw more concrete conclusions, but these initial studies are eye-opening to our big plastics problem. 


What can we do about this?

  • Use less plastic - Check out “100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life
  • Pressure big companies to reduce plastic packaging – Trader Joe’s is notorious for excessive packaging, but due in part to customer outcry, they will be drastically changing the way they package their food, especially produce this coming year.
  • Support companies and initiatives tackling the disposable plastic waste issue – for example a new company Loop is working with large companies to deliver goods in stainless steel containers that can be used at least 100 times.

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